Jam Bands

A guide to Phish's on-stage hand signals, from Drunken Bar Swing to Pork Tornado

When a band doesn't rely on a set list, musicians often find other ways to communicate on stage during the music. Phish, a band utterly reliant on improvisation, has gotten particularly good at this. In fact, the band has created a whole non-verbal language to let its members know what song to go into next.

We've put together a collection of hand signals that have been caught on tape and created a handy guide and naming system so you can figure out what they're doing up there. Some of the signals make sense, others...are a bit of a stretch. So we've also graded each of them, from one to ten Mike Gordon fight bells. For the uninitiated: More fight bells are better. They're like cowbell in that way.

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Leslie Simon